A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Friday, October 17, 2008

What I Had for Lunch Today: Veggie Panino

Today was one of those gorgeous autumn days that makes you glad you live in New England. Brilliant sunshine, brilliant foliage. Picturesque towns so saturated with culture you couldn't cut it with a knife. Brainy people in sensible shoes. All the things that say "home" to me.

Friend Christopher turns fifty tomorrow, and I had the honor of spending the last day of his forties with him. We started in South Hadley with a visit to the Odyssey, that venerable bookstore across the street from Mount Holyoke College that's risen from the ashes not once, but twice, and seems to be going strong despite other independent bookstores falling like dominoes. Then luncheon next door at Johnny's Grille: a group of authors meeting to network and break bread together. Three tables of talent; over a hundred books in print among us. Chris was the only guy, but a good sport about it, and understandably popular. Vegetarian selection was very limited; I had a veggie panino with coleslaw. What was I thinking? I've been eating cabbage every day, with no end in sight. Unfortunately, the cole slaw was better than the panino, which was indifferently grilled on too-dry bread. Inside the sandwich was an blah combo of raw spinach, canned (unmarinated) artichokes, a pink tomato, a slice of unmelted American cheese, and an uneven slather of mayonnaise. No herbs or spices; no attempt to blend flavors. Not grilled long enough to heat it through. Meh. Everybody else's food looked good, however.

From South Hadley, we meandered northwest to Williamstown, to catch a special exhibit at the Clark, one of my favorite museums in the world. You have to hike up the hill to the Stone Hill Center for the Homers and Sargents we were there to see. Fumée d'ambre gris...wow! Worth a trip from anywhere. Then, in the main building, we visited Like Breath on Glass: Whistler, Inness, and the Art of Painting Softly. Nocturne: Blue and Silver—Battersea Reach, which lives in Boston at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, is breathtaking. At first glance, it looks like nothing but a muddled bluish blur. You have to get some distance from it and look at it for a long time before shapes start to emerge from the blur...boats, a pier, buildings. Stare at this painting for a while and you'll never look at the Thames the same way again.

Whistler lived in Springfield for a time, just around the corner from me, I'm
proud to report. Our city fathers, in their infinite wisdom, knocked his house down, I'm not so proud to report. There's a museum being put up there now, to showcase one part of Springfield's glorious past. Is that ironic?

By the time we got back to Springfield, we were ready for dinner. We chose Montenia's, a fantastic place on State Street, walking distance from my house. By then my camera battery had given out, so I couldn't record my dish of eggplant over rice. Christopher and a nearby patron were both swooning over the seafood gumbo.
The CD playing in the background featured Montenia herself singing the same jazz tunes we'd been listening to in the car. If we'd asked, she would have come out and sung live just for us. Nice finale for a beautiful day.

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